Police in Australia have charged a 49-year-old woman with the murder of three elderly members of a Baptist church near Melbourne. The three are reported to have died after they ate poisonous mushrooms at a lunch hosted by the woman.
Victoria state police also charged the woman with five counts of attempted murder - two related to the meal on 29th July this year and three related to separate incidents in 2021 and 2022 when they said a 48-year-old man became ill following meals.
The woman, who was not named by police, was remanded in custody and will appear in court on Friday.
Dean Thomas, who is in charge of the investigation, said: "Today's charges are just the next step in what has been an incredibly complex, methodical and thorough investigation by Homicide Squad detectives."
Don Patterson, his wife Gail, and her sister Heather Wilkinson became ill and later died after the lunch in Leongatha, a small rural town around 85 miles southeast of Melbourne.
A fourth man, Heather Wilkinson's husband, Ian, the 68-year-old leader of Korumburra Baptist Church, was released from hospital in September after being treated for alleged poisoning.
State broadcaster ABC reported the woman had told police she did not intend to poison her guests and had herself been hospitalised after the lunch.
At the time of the deaths, local councillor Jenni Keerie said the community was in shock at losing three such "strong, kind and generous" community members.
"We'll pull together as a community to get through this but we've lost a great store of kindness in Korumburra this weekend, with the loss of these much-loved and valued community contributors."
The families of the deceased released a statement saying: "It is with profound sadness that we share the news of a tragic event that has deeply affected our families, friends, and church community. The past week has been a time of shock and grief for us all.
"They were parents, grandparents, siblings, children, and pillars of faith within our community. Their love, steadfast faith, and selfless service have left an indelible mark on our families, the Korumburra Baptist Church, the local community, and indeed, people around the globe.
"We find solace in God's love, knowing that they are now in the presence of our Lord, Jesus Christ."
Deaths from eating mushrooms are relatively rare in the country, which has several species, including the "death cap" mushroom, that is dangerous enough to kill a human.